How to Prevent Burnout Before It's Too LateNov 15, 2020
This year has been a difficult one, hasn’t it? Many of us were already juggling a ton of responsibilities. Then suddenly, we were forced to adapt (temporarily) to a new way of living.
We’ve had to sacrifice our precious holidays abroad, get used to virtual hangouts with our friends, do our best to keep our families safe, and grieve for those we’ve lost. That’s not even mentioning the joys of juggling childcare and working from home...
Understandably, this has been pushing so many of us closer towards ‘burnout’- that state of total emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that’s caused by doing too much for too long.
“It feels like living the same day over and over, getting a ton of shit done, yet never feeling refreshed or accomplished,” says motherhood and parenting blogger Scary Mommy
The problem is, all this stress doesn’t just feel bad. It puts your mental and physical health at serious risk and can have huge consequences for your personal life too. (I should know- I actually managed to give myself some brand new food allergies in my 30s as a result of all the stress I was under!)
That’s why we all need to take regular steps to reduce our stress levels before we push ourselves into burnout.
I know many of you are struggling right now with stress, anxiety and even burnout so I’ve put together the following tips to help you however I can.
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep helps fix almost everything. I often find that making an effort to get to bed early for at least a night or two makes a huge difference to how I’m feeling.
Suddenly, it’s much easier to deal with whatever challenges life throws my way. I have more energy, I feel more motivated, it’s easier to make those healthy lifestyle choices and I feel much more in control of my life! (even if the reality is far different!)
That’s why you should prioritise your sleep before you do anything else if you’re feeling like you’re edging towards burnout.
If you struggle to get to sleep because you can’t switch your brain off, it might be worth downloading a relaxation/meditation app such as Headspace or Calm. Shawn Stevenson’s book “Sleep Smarter” is also a fantastic resource if you’re looking for more sleep tips, as is his podcast, “The Model Health Show”
ACTION: Are you getting all the sleep your body needs to thrive? How could you get more early nights?
2. Claim solo time
Everyone tells you the importance of making time for yourself when you’re a parent, don’t they? You know you need to do it when you start feeling completely frazzled or your patience levels start to dip.
And yes, I know that finding that essential ‘me’ time is much easier said than done for most of us. Especially if you’re a parent, you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, or you’re simply trying to make it through this crazy time. I know it from experience.
But there’s no way you can ever get through the stress and avoid hitting burnout if you’re not giving yourself the mental and physical space to be yourself.
Remember that person?
What used to bring you joy? What did you used to feel excited about? What did you look forward to doing?
Then find a way to bring this into your life on a regular basis. Schedule a regular slot of solo time into your diary then make it happen. Switch off your email notifications, get your partner to look after the kids, delegate whatever you can and then enjoy.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
You could just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet for a short period of time. Or perhaps you’d prefer to go for a walk or do a short workout. How about calling your friend? Or picking up that knitting projected you started last winter but never got around to finishing?
ACTION: When can you claim your regular slot of downtime? What day or time would work best for you and your family? Make it happen.
3. Detox from social media
When used in moderation, social media can be a fantastic way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, find your community and get inspired.
But, if you’ve watched the recently released Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”, you’ll know that it has a dark side. Not only can it manipulate our brain chemicals to keep us scrolling and glued to our screens, it can also cause us to feel completely inadequate.
We can’t help but compare ourselves to friends and strangers on sites like Instagram to see how our lives match up.
We see how much fun they’re having (yes, even despite the lockdowns!), the gorgeous locations they’ve visited on holiday, how much in love they are with their partners, etc, etc, and we can’t help but feel like failures. Even if you’re fully aware that most of us stick to posting the best bits of our lives on social media, your subconscious feels bad.
But that’s not all. If you’re already feeling stressed, social media can be far too stimulating. Although it doesn’t seem like much, that constant scrolling can be all it takes to push your already overwhelmed brain into overdrive.
So what can we do about it? How can we find a healthy balance if we don’t want to give up social media completely?
The easiest thing you can do right now is switch off your social media notifications. It might not seem like much, but it allows you to choose when you want to interact with social media, not the other way round. It also takes less than a minute to do.
Another effective trick is to limit your social media usage to a certain time during the day. For example, a friend of mine only allows herself to check in for 10 minutes in the evening (and she’s currently experimenting with a full detox).
ACTION: Be honest and ask yourself what relationship you currently have with social media. Are you really in control of your habits? Then go ahead and switch off your notifications. I promise it will make a huge difference.
Did you know that laughter releases a powerful cocktail of feel-good chemicals> that help ease our stress, lift our moods and help us feel closer to those we care about?
When you’re feeling stressed or like you’re edging towards burn out, having a laugh is probably the last thing you feel like doing. I know because I’ve been there too.
But I promise you that it’s really worth the effort. Great quick ideas include:
- Watching funny films or stand up performances
- Looking up short comedy clips on YouTube
- Listening to a funny podcast
- Start a Pinterest board of jokes
ACTION: Do one thing today to make yourself laugh. (If you’re struggling for ideas, watch this.)
5. Nourish yourself
We often find ourselves skipping meals when we’re stressed, even if we don’t mean to. It’s just we get too busy and end up running out of time or getting distracted.
This might not feel like a big deal at the time, but soon we find ourselves reaching for the biscuits, cakes and other types of junk food and eating far more than we ever intended.
But this isn’t the biggest problem that we face when we don’t eat properly. You see, when we skip meals or make less than healthy food choices, we’re depriving our bodies of the vital nutrients we need.
We also need more of certain nutrients such as B-complex vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C when we’re under stress, so forgetting your nutrition can often make you feel far more overwhelmed than before.
Skipping meals or making poor food choices also affects your blood sugar balance and is likely to make you feel more tired or more wired than ever before, and can actually increase your stress hormones.
Thankfully, the solution is simple. Just choose wholefoods and cook from scratch as often as you can. If you can, switch from white carbs to complex carbs, increase your fruit and veg intake and make sure you’re getting healthy fats and proteins. (Using a slow cooker and doing meal prep can really help.)
Even if you’re crazy busy, make time to put your diet first. You’ll feel better faster and find it much easier to cope with whatever life throws at you.
I also take a multivitamin and mineral supplement that includes magnesium, B-complex and vitamin C to ensure I’m getting the nutrients I need.
ACTION: What easy switch could you make to boost your nutrition? Swap white pasta for wholegrain? Make pizza from scratch instead of ordering a takeaway?
6. Ask for help
You don’t need to be superwoman to have value as a human being. You aren’t supposed to manage everything all by yourselves. We need the help and support of our community when times get tough and there’s no shame in asking.
Don’t try to manage it all but instead ask for help.
This could be as simple as asking your partner to take care of the kids so you can enjoy a nice hot bath. Or hiring a personal assistant to help you stay on top of your business tasks.
If you feel like you can barely cope, it’s worth asking a trained professional for help. Speak to your doctor if it’s getting too much.
ACTION: How could you share the burden with others? How could you ask for help?
7. Read more!
If you’re feeling stressed, you also need to develop a reading habit.
Why? Reading is an excellent way to get away from your screens, allow your imagination to flow, give you a sense of escapism and even allow you to disconnect from daily life.
Although research has found that fiction works most effectively for stress, non-fiction can provide similar results. It’s also a very mindful habit because it’s almost impossible to multitask when you’re there enjoying your book.
You don’t need to have a huge budget to start (or restart) a reading habit. Just pop to your local library, swap with your friends, download an e-reader or even download a subscription app that lets you read titles for one small monthly fee.
ACTION: This one is easy! Simply find yourself a great book to read and get stuck in. Oprah’s Book Club is a great place to find recommendations.;
8. Move your body
The fastest way to improve your mood and overcome stress is to lace up those trainers and get some exercise. As those feel-good hormones start pumping through your body, you can’t help but feel much more positive. According to the NHS, this alone could reduce your anxiety and stress levels by up to 40%
Whether you’re attending a Pilates class, heading outside for a run or finding a quick yoga session on YouTube, you’ll be giving your brain a well-deserved break and doing something for yourself for a change. You’ll also notice how much better you sleep when you’ve done something physical that day.
Make sure you also take time to get outside for at least some exercise, even if that means you have to wrap yourself up and go for just a quick 30 minute walk around the block. You’ll feel so much better.
ACTION: Set yourself a goal of having a short walk for at least 30 minutes per day. It’s quick, it’s easy and it works!
The key takeaway here is that you don’t have to keep struggling with your stress, anxiety or sense of overwhelm. You can find your escape, gently release the pressure and still keep all of those balls in the air.
Sleep, eat well, laugh, read, move, ask for help and switch off the damn phone! You’ll make a huge difference to how you feel.